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Africa: Expert Views – What Does the Pope’s Support for Gay Civil Unions Mean for LGBT+ Rights?

Mexico City — We asked activists, academics and religious leaders how the pope’s comments could affect the lives of LGBT+ Catholics

Pope Francis has signaled a softening towards LGBT+ rights with his comments that same-sex couples should be protected by civil union laws and have the right to form a family.

In some of his clearest language on the subject since his election in 2013, the pontiff said in a documentary “Francesco” released on Wednesday that gay couples needed legal rights.

“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it,” he said.

The pope’s views have publicly evolved since he was archbishop of Buenos Aires – and a vocal critic of same-sex marriage in Argentina before it was legalised in 2010 – to asking “who am I to judge?” a gay person who seeks God in 2013.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation asked activists, academics and religious leaders how the pope’s comments could affect the lives of LGBT+ Catholics.

FRANCIS DEBERNARDO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF U.S. CATHOLIC LGBT+ ADVOCACY GROUP NEW WAYS MINISTRY

“It is an historic moment when the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, long seen as a persecutor of LGBTQ people, moves in such a supportive direction for lesbian/gay couples and their families. It signals that the church is continuing to develop more positively its approach to LGBTQ issues.”

BARTOSZ STASZEWSKI, POLISH LBGT+ ACTIVIST

“The pope has spoken up that LGBT+ people need legal recognition. It is late but at least it happened. I think it will help our fight … I hope this is a new chapter that is beginning.”

MARIANNE DUDDY-BURKE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF NONPROFIT DIGNITYUSA